Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki became the first member of the organization to speak publicly following the positive diagnosis of six members of the club - including five players - for the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Thursday.
The 30-year-old rearguard said on a Zoom conference call that, while the situation was a scary one, those infected are on their way back to full health.
"At the time I wasn’t as concerned knowing that these guys are in great shape and very healthy, but it is still alarming for sure," Borowiecki said. This situation, this virus is all so new and there is not all known about it. When it is people that you care about, like family, when they get sick with anything, you are going to be concerned, so thankfully it seems everyone is on the mend…thank God for that."
The Senators are one of two NHL clubs to announce positive diagnoses for their players, along with the Colorado Avalanche. Both the Sens and the Avs played against the Sharks at the SAP Center in early March after Santa Clara County had issued a warning about large gatherings due to the outbreak. The Sens later played the Los Angeles Kings in the Staples Center directly after a visit from the Brooklyn Nets, who also had four players test positive for the novel coronavirus.
Because of an ankle injury, Borowiecki wasn't with the team on their California trip, something he now realizes was fortunate.
"Obviously, you are bummed out being injured, but looking back now in hindsight, I am very, very thankful and fortunate," the Ottawa native said. "At that given time, it kind of seemed like LA, California, was the epicentre of things in North America and I had that in the back of my mind [with] having actually not [been] on the trip and then coming back and having the guys kind of be exposed and a certain number of them fall ill. I was very very thankful to be here at home. My number one concern and priority in life right now is the health and well being of [wife] Tara and [son] Miles. That trumps everything for me so I’m very, very thankful."
With pro sports on hold and the remainder of the NHL season hanging in the balance, Borowiecki says that it remains important to continue to do what's best for the greater good.
"We all have to make a sacrifice here," Borwiecki said. "At the end of the day, for a lot of us, we are very fortunate that it is not a hard sacrifice; we stay inside and we are responsible and empathetic and compassionate and understand that there [are] people out there who are depending on us being safe and responsible and self-isolating. So, let's all band here together and suck it up for a bit and do what’s best for this community."
In 53 games this season, Borowiecki had a career-high seven goals and 11 assists in 17:56 of ice-time a night.